One of the major challenges for the water industry is the need to prolong the life of legacy monitoring systems installed, in some cases, over the last 30 years, while becoming more efficient and meeting new targets. To address these issues, UK operator Vodafone has launched new internet of things (IoT)-based technology to improve monitoring and detection systems, increase efficiency, reduce wastage and meet regulatory requirements.
Vodafone noted that after years of market consolidation, data is often trapped on separate systems that do not talk to each other and often have incompatible technical standards. This, it said, has resulted in the water industry facing significant overheads and operational inefficiencies due to the increasing cost of managing disparate technologies that are too expensive and disruptive to replace with modern equivalents.
The operator’s new system is claimed to fundamentally allow water companies to increase the level of surveillance and telemetry on networks to meet regulatory and environmental standards, while ensuring greater efficiency and reduced wastage. It offers a single data management platform that integrates old and new sensors in one system to dramatically increase operational efficiency.
The technology is described as device and technology agnostic, so it can bring together any device in a network and give water companies every element of an IoT solution, including devices, connectivity, data management and ongoing service. This, said the operator, means water companies are not locked into suppliers and can choose the devices that best meet their needs and those of their customers.
In operation, Vodafone will procure new devices and sensors, including smart meters and data loggers, as well as integrate existing devices into a single management platform. The operator said connectivity issues are addressed as its narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) coverage now reaches 98% of the UK geography.
NB-IoT is designed for use cases that require devices with long-life batteries and in locations that might be difficult for traditional mobile connectivity to reach, such as underground water pipes. For use cases where weaker signal is sufficient (-128dBm), Vodafone’s NB- IoT network will exceed 98% geographical coverage (both indoor and outdoor) for the vast majority of regions, and 87% geographical coverage (indoor and outdoor) for stronger signal requirements (-118dBm).
In terms of data management, the single platform allows the user to manage all devices, both new and legacy, and integrate all datasets. Data from all devices is securely acquired, orchestrated, stored, analysed and visualised. Ongoing advice and collaboration is provided to ensure customers get the greatest value from their IoT deployment, and the quickest possible return on their investment.
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Damian Crawford, head of smart networks and leakage at water industry design and engineering firm Stantec, said Vodafone’s smart water proposition was a game-changer for the water industry. “While there is ample variety of water network telemetry equipment on the market, Vodafone can be unique in providing the water industry with one full end-to-end secure solution that is device agnostic, removing supplier lock-in and maximising existing assets,” he said.
“Vodafone’s innovative solution has set a benchmark for the UK water industry, with the aim to deliver excellent service for water companies and their customers.”
Vodafone UK business director Anne Sheehan added: “There is growing demand on the UK water companies to increase efficiency and reduce wastage. We’ve worked closely with the water industry to identify a common problem and develop a simple solution. The platform has been designed with simplicity in mind – you do not have to be a connectivity expert to benefit from IoT.
“We are making it as easy as possible to ensure water companies can benefit from cutting-edge technology and connectivity to meet important regulatory and environmental standards.”
The launch of the new technology for the water industry follows the completion of a project to double the amount of NB-IoT sites. For those areas not currently covered by the NB- IoT network, Vodafone said it would work with customers to upgrade and add infrastructure on a case-by-case basis.